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Braves Deal Pitching for Defense in Reds' Boone

Baseball: Cincinnati gets Neagle and Tucker in five-player trade.

November 11, 1998|From Associated Press

The Atlanta Braves started retooling their lineup Tuesday by acquiring Gold Glove second baseman Bret Boone from the Cincinnati Reds for starter Denny Neagle and outfielder Michael Tucker.

The Braves also got left-handed reliever Mike Remlinger and gave up minor league pitcher Rob Bell, who led the Carolina League with 197 strikeouts last season.

After failing to make it to the World Series for a second consecutive season, the Braves were willing to give up a key component in their splendid rotation to fill a trouble spot.

Boone, 29, led the Reds with 24 homers and 95 runs batted in last season, all career highs. He provides an offensive and defensive upgrade at second base, where Tony Graffanino (.211, five homers) and Keith Lockhart (.257, nine homers) were disappointments.

"One of the things that the Braves have always done is recognize and try to create the strongest possible defensive team we could," Atlanta General Manager John Schuerholz said. "Pitching and defense are the hallmark of our ballclub, and this guy's the best defensive second baseman in the game.

"We think with the emergence of Kevin Millwood and the presence of Bruce Chen, we're better able at this time to do not only what we but also many of you have suggested be done: balance our club with pitching and hitting."

Neagle, 30, went 16-11 with a 3.55 earned-run average last season, when he was one of five Atlanta starters to win at least 16 games. Nine teams approached the Reds about Boone, but Atlanta's offer was the only one they seriously considered.

"We felt we were overwhelmed and had to make a deal," General Manager Jim Bowden said. "I hated to trade Bret. He's someone I've been probably the closest to in my baseball career. It was the most difficult thing I've had to do. We paid a big price but without starting pitching, you can't compete."

The budget-strapped Reds had the fifth-lowest payroll in the major leagues this season ($20.7 million) and needed a starter they could afford. Neagle's contract includes salaries of $4.75 million for each of the next two years and a $5.25 million option for 2001 with a $500,000 buyout.

"We think it's a major upgrade to our starting pitching," Bowden said. "It was very evident to us that we couldn't compete for one that was in the free agent market."

Boone is under contract for $2.9 million next year and $3.75 million in 2000, with a $4 million option for 2001 that includes a $250,000 buyout.

Boone established a major league record for second baseman by committing only two errors in 1997, but hit a career-worst .223. He shortened his swing last season and had his best offensive season.

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